Psychological Approaches to Chronic Pain

Chronic or persistent pain is a pain that lasts for longer than 3 months. There are many causes of the chronic pain and the choice of treatment depends upon type, severity, location, impact on your current lifestyle.

Chronic pain is a severely debilitating and complex condition that affects multiple areas of person’s life.


Functional Activities

  • Physical functioning
  • Ability to perform activities of daily living
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Work
  • Recreation.

Psychological Problems

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Social Consequences

  • Marital/family relations
  • Intimacy/sexual activity
  • Social isolation.

Financial Consequences

  • Healthcare costs
  • Disability
  • Lost workdays.

Psychological Approaches

Psychological approaches to pain are an important and accepted part of the holistic pain management model. Research has shown that psychological approaches such as Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT), mindfulness and hypnosis can be important components in improving pain management.  

Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

Research shows that CBT can be effective in reducing the psychological distress that is associated with long-term pain. Through the use of skills such as: relaxation, distraction, pacing, and problem solving, people are able to reduce the pain experience, improve social function and generally cope better with chronic pain.

Furthermore, research has shown that having realistic, helpful thoughts is an important part of chronic pain management. Whereas negative, unhelpful, unrealistic thoughts can lead to increased perception of pain, anxiety, anger and depression, social withdrawal, under-activity, overreliance on pain medications and poor sleep. During the therapy clients are thought how to develop more realistic and helpful way of thinking.  


Mindfulness involves deliberately and non-judgmentally paying attention to everything, using all the senses, while being in the present moment.

Mindfulness is about teaching clients how to separate their emotions, thoughts and mood from the pain sensation. In a mindful approach client is thought to noticing when they are preoccupied with thoughts about the future or the past, recognizing whether these are helpful or not, and developing the ability to free yourself from them.


Hypnosis is a well established mind-body approach used in chronic pain treatment. The basic premise of hypnosis is to change the way clients perceive pain messages in order to reduce the intensity of what they are feeling.

During hypnosis client get into a pleasant and comfortable state of hypnosis relaxation and then therapist focuses on re-programming negative believes and feelings that client has about chronic pain. Clients are taught how to use creative imagination to get comfortable and get out of pain; how to distract and distance themselves from it; how to alter and transform the sensations, reduce stress, tension and pain.

Furthermore, clients are taught self-hypnosis and provided with tape recordings of hypnosis sessions that can be used to reduce pain on a daily basis outside the sessions.

Pain should never leave you feel powerless. Chronic pain is treatable and you are not alone.


Valentina Dragicevic
Valentina DragicevicBrisbane City Psychologist
Valentina is a Clinical Psychologist passionate about working with people, empowering them to reach their full potential. Valentina helps clients overcome difficulties and challenges and live a rich, fulfilling and meaningful life.